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American Porn Paperback – 1 Feb 2017
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, 131,  pages, inked dedication to title page "for Peter Whitfield, with very best wishes from Heathcote Williams, January 2017
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According to Noam Chomsky, “the United States is the leading terrorist state”. Once you read Heathcote Williams’ latest collection of eighteen poems, you’ll be inclined to agree.
Taken as a whole, ‘American Porn’ dissects and destroys the myth of American Exceptionalism, and its preening, narcissistic sense of Manifest Destiny. From the naming of the continent, to the creation of ISIS, the author nails the American Dream to the floorboards, and proceeds to trample all over it, via a catalogue of precisely articulated and accurately perceived moral obscenities, war crimes, neo-fascistic demagoguery, holocaust complicity, and a singular act of genocide (as defined by the United Nations), committed against the aboriginal peoples. By way of contrast to the unhinged machinations of various Presidents, the triumph of the pornocracy, and the power of the military-industrial complex (which is very real), Williams’ portrayal of the White House Harlequin fly, and of the sequoia tree in the Sierra Nevada (known as ‘The President’), feel like breaths of the sweetest air, blown in from a distant planet.
I’m disinclined to review the individual poems, since that might suggest I I think I know more than the author does (I don’t). All I can say is Heathcote Williams speaks in a direct, no-nonsense way, which befits the urgency of the current situation, as regards the Dystopian States of Drumpfopolis. The fact that a rich, racist, sexist, self-aggrandizing bigot now rules the American roost is the natural outcome of the way the US is, in its bones - and has been - since the original Declaration of Independence. What, perhaps, some readers will find disturbing is Williams’ unsettling portrayal of Barack Obama. It is, undeniably, rather a shock to read of America’s first black Commander-in-Chief gleefully observing the ‘taking out’ of Sheikh Osama Bin Laden (via a US Navy Seals’ helmet camera). The fact that this footage was shown across the world, as was his swatting of the fly in the East Room of the White House, merely confirms “this buzz the powerful get when causing death, claiming that they’re still human”.
It might be suggested that detailing the inadequacies of Donald Trump is to take aim at an easy target (in the same way that Williams was criticized in some quarters for his treatment of Boris Johnson, via ‘The Beast of Brexit’). However, given the current President’s deliberate undermining of anyone and everyone who doesn’t conform to his definition of what constitutes all-American (as well as Johnson’s sleazy, underhand, self-promotion at the expense of all and sundry), then the unwritten law of ‘quid pro quo’ works for me every time.
Above all else, what Heathcote Williams despises is bullying - and the United States of America is, without doubt, the biggest global bully of all. ‘American Porn’ is a jolt to anyone’s system, brought up to believe that the United States was, or could ever be, genuinely regarded as the Land of the Free, as a Great Nation. In reality, as revealed by Williams, it’s an anti-democratic plutocracy, dominated and manipulated by unscrupulous profiteers and shady ‘behind the scenes’ operators, masquerading as law-abiding citizens. Its obsession with, and exploitation of, pornography is indicative of the way it sees itself and the world. It is also the seed of its potential downfall.
I strongly urge everyone to buy a copy of ‘American Porn’, especially Americans(!), and read from start to finish in a single sitting. I guarantee, by the end, you’ll know more than you do now…
How would Western culture respond?
Fast off the block was Heathcote Williams with his collection of poetry, American Porn. So far, only Williams, South Park's astonishingly good Series 20 with its toxic Memberberries, and gallows-humourist Frankie Boyle have delivered the satirical goods — with the US Saturday Night Live TV series scoring the odd home run with Alec Baldwin's chumping of Trump and Melissa McCarthy's epic savaging of Sean "Squealer" Spicer.
Heathcote is lighter on laughs but more intense on historical background, which anyone familiar with his stunning Royal Babylon will know. There's real substance in his writing, balancing passion and disgust on a razor's edge lest he stare into the abyss for too long. Like all great poets, he connects seemingly disparate events, building a fully three-dimensional picture of how we got here.
In the opening poem, The United States of Porn, Heathcote takes us from Ancient Rome to Amerigo Vespucci, pornographer to the mafia Medicis; from Chatsworth, California, which he nails as the "HQ of America's Pornocracy" industry, to the Nazis and tyrants who have always used sex to cement their power — modern America is little different.
"Goebbels believed pornography worked as an anaesthetic -
His enemies, ironically, could be softened by being stiffened "
Given the choice between food and orgasms, sex-mad lab rats will starve, and humans are diverted from existential threat.
His poem Happy Thanksgiving (as opposed to a Happy Ending) disdains the usual amnesiac festive platitudes for the horror of those first meetings between indigenous Native Americans and European immigrants. If only the natives had had the means to build a wall. "But this nation was created by Zombie cannibals". Williams then gives us gruesome vignettes of barbarism and treachery, not on the part of the natives, but of the pious, bible-bashing interlopers and their God-bovvering hypocrisy. "The Pilgrim Fathers belong not to history, But to a quasi-religious ideal," which is still running things, especially with the ascension of Trump.
In American Porn, Heathcote Williams maps out the background: all the roads leading to this sorry point. Trump is less cause than symptom: a fully-ripe buboe fully charged to explode all over the world.